My introduction to Queen was back when I was in college. It was then I first heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” coming through my car’s stereo speakers. I found myself intrigued by the harmonies, lush orchestration and catchy melodic line. I ran out to buy Night at the Opera, and it’s still among my favorite albums from the ‘70s, with hits that have long since become iconic like “We are the Champions,” “Killer Queen,” and “We Will Rock You.”
Last year the BBC ran a two-part documentary on the innovative mega rock band, whose global popularity has spanned more than four decades. Recently Eagle Vision entertainment released the film along with numerous extras onto Blu-ray. If you are a Queen fan or have an interest in late 20th century British rock (or pop culture), you will find Days of Our Lives an interesting journey back in time. It is an honest, even introspective, retrospective of an iconic English band told by its members and those in its orbit.
Structured chronologically around the band’s album releases, the documentary traces Queen’s history, primarily told by drummer/songwriter Roger Taylor and guitarist/songwriter Brian May, and by performance. Using studio and candid video clips Days of Our Lives covers each of Queen’s major releases—the successes and the failures. Many of the clips are from rare footage, never before seen.
The story begins with Brian May, who was pursuing a PhD at the Imperial College of Physics and Astronomy in London and the formation of a band called “Smile.” The group ultimately became the Queen we know after adding Freddie Mercury, a unique vocal talent who proved to be a charismatic frontman, known for brilliant stagecraft, but also for his innovative writing and unique vocal style.
From the release of Queen’s first big hit, “Killer Queen,” on 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack, it was clear that the band was different, presenting clever lyrics and sophisticated songwriting. Problems with the group’s management left the group pretty broke, despite the success, and by the time they prepared to record the very expensive Night at the Opera, they were poor and in debt. The story of putting together the elaborate, long, and legendary “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which appears on Night at the Opera, is fascinating.
Part 2 of the documentary focuses on Mercury and his losing battle with AIDS, as well as the later years of more conflict and less success during the early ‘80s as the music changed around them. Their performance at Live Aid in 1985, performing “We Are the Champions” as thousands sang along, triggered a comeback, particularly in Europe, that lasted through their final tour in support of the album A Kind of Magic, Queen’s final tour with Mercury.
Ending on a bittersweet note, the documentary takes us to Wembley for a tribute concert after Mercury’s death in 199, with thousands upon thousands joining the band and celebrities from Elton John to David Bowie and Liza Minnelli paying tribute to Queen’s lead singer.
The Blu-ray release includes a ton of extras, including outtakes, additional interviews, and videos. Among these is a featurette on creating and recording the score for Flash Gordon, the campy remake of the comic book classic.
The AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1 makes for very clean video of the newly recorded videos, but is wasted (of course) on the earlier footage, which is aged and grainy. It is not, however, wasted on the documentary’s music, which comes through with pristine clarity. Days of Our Lives is a must for any Queen aficionado—and those who can’t ever quite get the band’s music out of their heads decades later.